Our journalism usually sits behind a paywall, but we believe this is the time to make more of our content freely available to as many readers as possible. For more free coverage, sign up to COVID-19 Watch.

The mysterious man at the centre of yesterday’s damning eyewitness account of in-the-flesh branch stacking at Victorian ALP HQ is sacked Justin Madden staffer Hakki Suleyman, Crikey can reveal.

After initially refusing to name names, Independents faction chief Eric Dearricott told Crikey this morning that Suleyman was present in the room as the midday deadline for renewals neared. Suleyman is believed to have been controlling the flow of renewals. His presence was met with disbelief by Dearricott and other observers.

Dearricott’s report, headed “no wonder there are Brimbanks” (published in full by Crikey yesterday), contained a reference to “a person prominently featured in the Ombudsman’s Report” into Brimbank.

Over two-pages, Dearricott detailed the delivery of thousands of dollars in cash to head office and the use of untraceable bank cheques in contravention of party rules. He alleged that one party member tried to renew multiple memberships on his personal credit card and five or six different branches breached bulk renewal guidelines by exceeding cash limits designed to curb branch stacking.

Last night, Suleyman, who is being represented by notorious gangland lawyer George Defteros, was named in State Parliament as part of a rare censure motion directed against his former boss Planning Minister Justin Madden.

During a fiery six hour debate in the Victorian upper house, opposition attack dog David Davis called on the planning minister to sack himself over the Brimbank scandal. Madden says he was “unaware” of the allegations surrounding Suleyman until the Ombudsman’s report was released a month ago, despite multiple letters sent to him detailing problems on the council.

Suleyman was repeatedly named in Ombudsman’s report as using his position as Madden’s electorate officer to inappropriately influence council decisions.

Madden has labeled the motion a political stunt and appears to be hedging his bets on the general public’s incomprehension of internecine ALP quarrels.

Last Friday’s fracas is also set to increase pressure on Victorian State Secretary Steven Newnham. Newnham, the subject of an attempted pre-Christmas “thrill kill” by dissident members of the so-called “ambition” faction, was granted a temporary reprieve after a “stability pact” was struck between his backers and the Socialist Left of the party. That consensus is now thought to crumbling in the wake of Dearricott’s allegations.

“It doesn’t look good”, one factional chieftain told Crikey.

Suleyman and Newnham famously appeared together last year in this Stateline interview with the State Secretary intervening to stop his factional ally talking to reporters.

Dearricott will now attempt to move multiple motions at next week’s State Conference to deal with the report. He will propose rolling membership renewal dates and a ban on bulk renewals, to avoid the shenanigans that occurred last Friday.

He is also preparing a parallel submission to the party’s disputes tribunal, currently helmed by a trio of elder statesmen — Jim Maher and Esmond Curnow from the Right and John Speight from the Left — to strike off the renewals lodged last Friday.

Insiders say that there is a 66% chance of this issue being dealt with, with Curnow (a Suleyman rival and organiser at the National Union of Workers) and Speight said to be aggrieved over the allegations. One disputes tribunal member will be drawn out of a hat to investigate Dearricott’s charges.

Meanwhile, the pressure surrounding Madden could soon envelop the Member for Derrimut, Telmo Languiller, whose political future will be determined by the ALP National Executive under a resolution put to the Administrative Committee last Friday.

Crikey understands that Languiller, the subject of Dearricott’s ire over his own recruitment strategies in 2005, is about to be challenged by businessman Andrew Lappos and former Melton Mayor Chris Pappas. Both candidates are expected to submit their nominations in the next few days.

Peter Fray

This crisis will cut hard and deep but one day it will be over.

What will be left? What do you want to be left?

I know what I want to see: I want to see a thriving, independent and robust Australian-owned news media. I want to see governments, authorities and those with power held to account. I want to see the media held to account too.

Demand for what we do is running high. Thank you. You can help us even more by encouraging others to subscribe — or by subscribing yourself if you haven’t already done so.

If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

Support us today